Stefan Arvidsson

Stefan Arvidsson

Department of Cultural Sciences Faculty of Arts and Humanities
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Ph.D. in the History of Religions at Lund University 2000, Associate Professor in 2007. Professor in the History of Religions at Stockholm University and Professor in the Study of Religions at Linnæus University 2012.

My area of research is close to disciplines such as cultural and intellectual history, the history of political thought and philosophical anthropology. My basic question concerns how we persuade ourselves with the help of the imagination. I have increasingly come to focus on what I call modern mythology, i.e. imaginative narratives that shape modern collective identities. In my dissertation, Aryan Idols. The Indo-European Mythology as Ideology and Science (2006, in Swedish in 2000), I analyse the most sinister mythology of modern times and its (pseudo-)scientific legitimizations. In Draksjukan. Mytiska fantasier hos Tolkien, Wagner och de Vries (2007), reserched as a part of the project "Vägar till Midgård – nordisk hedendom i långtidsperspektiv", funded by Riksbankens jubileumsfond: the Swedish foundation for humanities and social sciences, I describe how one Old Norse myth has been re-used in modern times and which aesthetic and ideological ideas that have motivated the transformations of this myth. Selections from the monograph have been published in English.

How old mythical themes and characters have been used in modern politics is the topic for The Style and Mythology of Socialism. Socialist Idealism 1871-1914 (2017, in Swedish in 2016). Thanks to Riksbankens jubileumsfond I will be able to write a sequel: Under Blood Red Sky. Cultural style and Mythology of Socialism 1941-1945. As of spring 2017 I will post random material from this research on the blog Heart in a Heartless World. Together with Jakub Beneš and Anja Kirsch, I have edited and written the introduction to the volume Socialist Imaginations: Utopias, Myths, and the Masses (2018).

Besides the research on the mythic politics of socialism, I have recently published Religion and Politics under Capitalism. A Humanistic Approach to the Terminology, also funded by Riksbankens jubileumsfond. It is an attempt to bring into contact different schools of research on religion, politics, secularization and myth that are rarely brought together. Research on so-called totalitarian "political religions" and their relationship to the culture of capitalism is in focus, besides the relationship between the main political ideologies of our times and theological view on modernity.

I have previously done research on Old Norse religion, New Age, modern religious strategies and the historiography of religions. In 2011, an introductory book called Varför religionsvetenskap? En ämnesintroduktion för nya studenter was published. I have also written and edited texts influenced by Marxist cultural theories.

I am trained in the humanistic discipline called the history of religions. I therefore approach religion as an exclusively human phenomenon and seek to raise questions that might be of interest for people regardless of their religious or life-stance believes. It also follows – at least that is my interpretation of the aim of humanistic studies – that I should pay special attention to the dreams spun through history by humankind and to try to expose the forces that hitherto have prevented these dreams from coming true.



Religion and Politics under Capitalism: A Humanistic Approach to the Terminology. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2019

Socialist style and mythology. Socialist Idealism, 1871-1914. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge 2017. Swedish version: Morgonrodnad: Socialismens stil och mytologi 1871-1914. Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2016

Varför religionsvetenskap? En ämnesintroduktion för nya studenter. Lund: Studentlitteratur, 2012

Draksjukan: mytiska fantasier hos Tolkien, Wagner och de Vries. Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2007

Aryan idols: Indo-European mythology as ideology and science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. Swedish version: Ariska idoler: Den indoeuropeiska mytologin som ideologi och vetenskap. Eslöv: Brutus Östlings bokförlag Symposion, 2000. German version, translated by Luitgard Löw and Gero Löw, intended to be published by Peter Lang Verlagsgruppe


With Jakub Beneš and Anja Kirsch: Socialist Imaginations: Utopias, Myths, and the Masses. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2018

Guest editor for special issue on the humanistic studies of religions, Temenos: Nordic journal of comparative religion, vol. 51, no. 2, 2015

With Jonas Svensson: Människor och makter 2.0: En introduktion till religionsvetenskap, 2nd extended edition. Halmstad: Högskolan i Halmstad, 2010. 1st edition: Människor och makter. En introduktion till religionsvetenskap. Halmstad: Högskolan i Halmstad, 2008

Marxismens filosofi: apropos ett jubileum. Stockholm: Brutus Östlings bokförlag Symposion, 2007

With Åsa Berggren and Ann-Mari Hållans: Minne och myt: konsten att skapa det förflutna. Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2004


“Wagner, Humanism, Socialism and the Rise of Modern Mythology”, Mark Berry and Nicholas Vazsonyi, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. Cambridge: Cambridge University press, forthcoming 2019

”Världsträdets metamorfoser i socialistisk, utopisk kosmologi”, in Cecilia Ljung et al, eds., Tidens landskap: en vänbok till Anders Andrén. Lund, Nordic Academic Press, 2019

“Myths and utopias, critics and caretakers. In defence of revisionist history”, in Hugh B. Urban and Greg Johnson, eds., Irreverence and the Sacred. Critical Studies in the History of Religions. Festschrift in honour of Bruce Lincoln. Oxford: Oxford University press, 2018

With Jakub Beneš and Anja Kirsch: “Introduction: Socialist Imaginations”, Socialist Imaginations: Utopias, Myths, and the Masses. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2018

”Aryan: Conceptual History”, in Wenda Trevathan, ed., The International Encyclopedia of Biological Anthropology. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2018

“Editor’s note: Locating the humanistic within the study of religions”, Temenos: Nordic journal of comparative religion, vol. 51, no. 2, 2015

“The Humanistic Study of Religions. An obscure tradition illuminated by the “Knights of Labor”, Temenos: Nordic journal of comparative religion, vol. 51, no. 2, 2015. Swedish version: ”Humanistisk religionsforskning. En otydlig tradition belyst av ’Arbetets riddare’”, Chaos: Skandinavisk tidsskrift for religionshistoriske studier, no. 60, 2013

With Nina Björk: ”Terry Eagleton”, in Stefan Jonsson, ed., Samtida politisk teori. Stockholm: Tankekraft, 2015

“Blood-Suckers! The concepts revisionist and anti-revisionist mythology introduced by the vampire- and werewolf-tetralogy Underworld (2003-2012)”, Journal of Religion and Film, vol. 18 no. 2, 2014. Swedish version: ”Utsugare! Begreppen revisionistisk och antirevisionistisk mytologi introducerade med hjälp av en vampyr- och varulvsfilm”, Chaos: Dansk-norsk tidsskrift for religionshistoriske studier, no. 52, 2011

“Recycling Narrations in a Post-Modern Market: Some Questions about Myth Today”, in Catharina Raudvere, Krzysztof Stala and Trine Stauning Willert, eds., Rethinking the space for religion: new actors in Central and Southeast Europe on religion, authenticity and belonging. Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2012. Swedish version: ”Myt idag. Tankar om myt, politik och kultur i vår samtid”, Chaos: Skandinavisk tidsskrift for religionshistoriske studier, no. 53, 2012.

“Religionsvetenskap”, “Teologi”, Nationalencyklopedin, digital edition, 2012

"Greed and the nature of evil. Tolkien versus Wagner", Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, vol. 22, no. 2, 2010

”Inledning” (with Jonas Svensson), ”Klassifikation av religioner”, ”Religionsekologi”, ”Jämförande religionshistoria”, in by Jonas Svensson and Stefan Arvidsson, eds., Människor och makter 2.0: En introduktion till religionsvetenskap. 2nd extended edition. Halmstad: Högskolan i Halmstad, 2010

”Moderna myter och revolutionära drömmar. Exemplet Nibelungens ring av Richard Wagner”, in Samuel Edquist, Lars Hermanson, & Stefan Johansson, eds., Tankar om ursprung: forntiden och medeltiden i nordisk historieanvändning. Stockholm: Statens historiska museum, 2009

”Germania. Noen hovedlinjer i forskningen om fortidens germanere”, in Jorunn Sem Fure, & Terje Emberland, eds., Jakten på Germania: fra nordensvermeri til SS-arkeologi. Oslo: Humanist, 2009

”Drudgery Dwarf. On the Absence of Labour in the Nibelungen Tradition”, in Anders Andrén, Kristina Jennbert and Catharina Raudvere, eds., Old Norse Religion in Long Time Perspective. Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2006. More extensive Swedish version: ”Slita dvärg. Om frånvaron av arbete i Nibelungentraditionen”, in Anders Andrén, Kristina Jennbert and Catharina Raudvere, eds., Hedendomen i historiens spegel. Bilder av det förkristna Norden. Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2005

”Återbruket av den fornnordiska mytologin i vår samtid" / ”The Reuse of Norse mythology in our times — Myth and Modernity”, Odens öga — mellan makter och människor i det förkristna Norden. Exhibition catalogue. Helsingborg: Dunkers Kulturhus, 2006

”Gud är en pseudonym”, in Catharina Raudvere and Olav Hammer, eds., Med Gudomlig auktoritet. Om religionens kraft i politiken. Göteborg: Makadam förlag, 2004

”Religionsvetenskapens uppdrag”, Svensk religionshistorisk årsskrift 2002, 2003

”Stig Wikander och forskningen om ariska mannaförbund”, Chaos: Dansk-norsk tidsskrift for religionshistoriske studier, no. 38, 2002

”I skuggan av kors och hakkors. Om Wilhelm Schmidts, Wilhelm Koppers och Marija Gimbutas teorier om ’indogermansk’ religion och kultur”, in Anders Andrén, Kristina Jennbert and Catharina Raudvere, eds., Myter om det nordiska. Mellan romantik och politik. Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2001

"Aryan Mythology as Science and Ideology", Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. 67. no. 2, 1999. Swedish version: "Den ariska mytologin som politik och vetenskap", in Catharina Raudvere and Leif Stenberg, eds., Röster. Religionsantropologiska perspektiv, Eslöv: Brutus Östlings bokförlag Symposion, 1998

"Världens bästa myter och sagor. En begreppshistoria", Res Publica, no. 40, 1998

Michael F. Robinson, The Lost White Tribe: Explorers, Scientists, and the Theory that Changed a Continent, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2016. In ISIS. Journal of the History of Science Society, vol 108, no. 4, 2017

Bruce Lincoln, Between history and myth: Stories of Harald Fairhair and the founding of the state, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2014. In Religion, 2015, vol. 46, no. 2, 2016

David Chidester, Empire of religion: Imperialism and comparative religion, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2014. In Religion, 2015, vol. 45, no. 4

Laura Feldt (ed.), Wilderness in mythology and religion: approaching religious spatialities, cosmologies, and ideas of wild nature, De Gruyter, Boston, 2012. In Method and theory of the study of religions, vol. 27, no. 3, 2015. Swedish version: In Chaos: Skandinavisk tidsskrift for religionshistoriske studier, nr 59, 2013

Linda S. Schearing & Valarie H. Ziegle, Enticed by Eden: How culture uses, confuses, (and sometime abuses) Adam and Eve, Baylor University Press, Waco, 2013. In Religion, vol. 45, no. 1, 2015

Peter Staudenmaier, Between occultism and Nazism: anthroposophy and the politics of race in the fascist era, Brill, Leiden, 2014. In Correspondences. Online Journal for the Academic study of Wester Esotericism, vol. 2, 2014

Robert A. Orsi (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Religious Studies, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2012. In Religion, vol. 44, no. 2, 2013

Bruce Lincoln. Gods and Demons, Priests and Scholars: Critical Explorations in the History of Religions, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2012. In Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, vol. 25, no.1, 2013

Wim van Binsbergen & Eric Venbrux (eds.), New Perspectives on Myth: Proceedings of the Second Annual Conference of the International Association for Comparative Mythology, Shikanda Press, Leiden/Haarlem, 2008. In Anthropos. Internationale Zeitschrift für Völker- und Sprachenkunde, vol. 107, no. 2, 2012

Susannah Heschel, The Aryan Jesus: Christian theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2008. In Journal of Religion in Europe, vol. 3, no 1, 2010

Horst Junginger (ed.), The study of religion under the impact of fascism, Brill, Leiden, 2008. In Religion, vol 19, no.1, 2008

Jacques Derrida & Gianni Vattimo (eds.), Religionen, Anthropos, Gråbo, 2004 and Bruce Lincoln, Holy terrors: Thinking about religion after September 11, Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2003. In Svensk religionshistorisk årsskrift 2005, 2006

Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, Hitler's priestess: Savitri Devi, the Hindu-Aryan myth, and Neo-Nazism, New York University Press, New York, 1998. In History of Religions, vol. 40, no. 4, 2001

Britt-Mari Näsström, Nordiska gudinnor: Nytolkningar av den förkristna mytologin, Bonnier, Stockholm, 2009. In Dagens Nyheter 12/1 2009

J. R. R. Tolkien, The legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, 2009. In Dagens nyheter 28/9 2009

Benedictus XVI, Jesus från Nasaret. Part one: Från dopet i Jordan till Kristi förklaring, Artos, Skellefteå, 2007 and "Introduction" by Terry Eagleton in Giles Fraser &, Terry Eagleton (ed.), The Gospels: Jesus Christ, Verso, London, 2007. In Dagens nyheter 27/4 2008

Heather Anne Pringle, Härskarplanen: Himmlers jakt på det ariska ursprunget, Historiska media, Lund, 2007. In Dagens nyheter 13/12 2007

Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche och filosofin, Daidalos, Göteborg, 2003. In Svenska Dagbladet 4/9 2003

Slavoj Žižek, Did somebody say totalitarianism? Five interventions in the (mis)use of a notion, Verso, London, 2001 and ditto, "Afterwords. Lenin's choice" in V.I. Lenin, Revolution at the gates: A selection of writings from February to October 1917, Verso, London, 2002. In OBS Kulturkvarten 17/12 2002

Carlo Ginzburg, History, rhetoric, and proof, Univ. Press of New England, Hanover, N.H., 1999 and ditto, No island is an island: four glances at English literature in a world perspective, Columbia University Press, New York, 2000. In Dagens Nyheter 8/8 2001

Terry Eagleton, The idea of culture, Blackwell, Oxford, 2000. In Dagens Nyheter 6/11 2001

Peter Kemp, Döden och maskinen: en introduktion till Jacques Derrida, Symposion, Stockholm, 1990. In Helsingborgs Dagblad, augusti 1990


Den lilla marxisten: En sorts ordbok, B. Östlings bokförlag Symposion, Eslöv, 2005

"Hjärna och hjärta i ett marxistiskt bibliotek", Jan Myrdalbiblioteket: En antologi, forthcoming

"Små barns första möte med Adolf Hitler: Dagboksanteckningar från deltagande observation i det egna hemmet", HumaNetten, no. 29, 2012

"Socialism som livsåskådning. Terry Eagletons 'metafysiska' eller 'teologiska' vändning", Socialistisk debatt, no. 3, 2008

With Nina Björk: "Kulturromantik", Glänta. Tidskrift för filosofi, konst, litteratur, psykoanalys, film och kritik, no. 3, 2008

"Berättelsen om arierna", RIT (Religionsvetenskaplig InternetTidskrift), no. 1, 2001

Extra-scholarly and polemic texts
With Nina Björk. "Absolut individualism är omöjlig". In Dagens ETC. 1/5 2018

"Harry Schein trodde på progressiva framsteg". In Dagens Nyheter 15/4 2017

"Religion måste ses i dess historiska sammanhang". In Dagens Nyheter 15/1 2016

"Politik snarare än religion lockar unga till IS". In Dagens Nyheter 23/12 2015

"Humaniora hjälper oss att förstå det främmande". In Dagens Nyheter 23/6 2015.

"Våldsdåden måste förstås som religiös politik och öppnar för nya frågor". In Dagens nyheter 4/2 2015

"Den humanistiska religionsforskningens kulturrelevans". In the blog Religionsvetenskapliga kommentarer, 25/2 2014

"En ny riktning mot fascism". In Dagens Nyheter 28/11 2013

"Vissa frågor är komplexa, trots allt". In Dagens Nyheter 31/3 2010

"Teologiska fakulterer bör avskaffas" (or "Helgesson trampar i klaveret"). In Dagens Nyheter 8/6 2009

"Skilj på tro och vetande". In Sydsvenska Dagbladet 5/10 2008.

"Alla vill inte fostras till liberaler". In Dagens nyheter 21/2 2008

"Staten bör hålla sig borta. Låt präster och imamer forma sin egen tro". In Dagens nyheter 11/2 2008

"Formproblematiken hos Marx. Eller hur man inte skapar en renässans för marxismen". In Häften för Kritiska Studier, 195/196 2007

"Barbaren har kommit tillbacka". In Dagens Nyheter, juni 2000

"Varför inte Förnuftets helg?" In Sydsvenska Dagbladet, 27/12 2000

"Troll spricker i dagsljus och mår illa i en människovärdig värld". In Sydsvenska Dagbladet, 30/ 11 2000

"Religion måste granskas". In Sydsvenska Dagbladet 13/4 1997

Bruce Lincoln, "På spaningen efter den germanska krigsguden: Georges Dumézil, politik och forskning under det sena 1930-talet". In Svensk religionshistorisk årsskrift 1998, 1999